I was part of a discussion about ‘fake news’ at the Chartered Institute of Public Relations (CIPR) North West event last week. One of the other speakers, the esteemed Steve Kuncewicz, made the point that you need to prepare for issues before they happen using the phrase ‘plan in peacetime’ which I like.
For many years I have used a similar phrase to express the same sentiment and that is that you can’t learn, plan or prepare when the streets are on fire. So what does it mean and why should we taken notice?
The bottom line in all this is that we often get so busy with the day-to-day activities and managing the competing demands we face that we don’t see beyond the end of our nose. The communication activity we undertake just satisfies the current ‘to-do list’ and we aren’t planning for the future. Professional communicators know the importance of preparing for a crisis and that can be an operational or reputational issue. I am sure that if there was a survey of how many organisations and businesses have a clear crisis communication plan that is understood by all the key and affected groups there would be a large percentage admitting they were not ready.
In this fast-moving world where social media can share events, rumours or issues in an instant we haven’t got much time to spare. If we are not ready to take action we will be left behind. People will be commenting, discussing and sharing before we are able to get involved. The key to be able to address this is to be ready and to have worked things through.
It means having a clear plan to manage this situation. It means having the trust of the top team which will allow you to move quickly without unnecessary bureaucracy. It means knowing what the priority channels, messages and activities are. It means having people around you who are able to move quickly to execute the plan.
History is littered with examples of times when people and companies were not ready and had not planned for a crisis. We may all be very busy but can we afford not to take the time to plan. Don’t wait until the streets are on fire to get ready.
Image courtesy of Max Pixel